Time Away, and Making Make:Believe

Sometimes, the need to ‘recharge the batteries’ is an imperative for me in order to keep making work and doing what I love. I need a shift in perspective, some time away, and an opportunity to get out of the city. Dig in the dirt. Look at the sky. Listen to animals and the wind. I am fairly certain that I will never be entirely comfortable in an urban setting; after 34 years of city living, I am still utterly smitten with the silence and the space that only the countryside can offer. And fortunately, I have some wonderful people in my life who can provide just such an outlet … and a place to make work too!

Back in 2011, I started a multi-phase/multi-year project called Make:Believe.  You will find earlier posts about it here and here as well. This past weekend was my first opportunity to work on this project for any extended period in over a year – and it was simply wonderful to do so, in every way imaginable.

The old adage states that ‘everything has its time’ – and while I’ve been impatient to get out to work on this project for quite some time now, in then end the break and time away from it was exactly what the site needed, and what I needed too. For me, it was a period of time in which to try different ways of making that I had discovered when I started the project … a honing of skills and thought, if you will. And the land needed time to feed and support the structures; the caragana has flourished (in part because much of the deadwood had been removed, and several of the most crowded and crowding trees extracted). The trunks and branches I had worked with in 2011 have begun to grow together into solid woven forms in many spots, and in others, the newer, pliable stems have now the added length I needed to make develop the work in several areas more fully.


I have added a new slideshow to the Make:Believe page with these and several more images; I invite you to browse through the full set, as I think it will give you some sense of how the work has evolved, and continues to change and develop over time.


One of the most refreshing things about this project is the lack of authority I have over/within it. Granted, I have an idea of how I would like things to go and some sense of the general direction I want the work to take (roughly how many structures I want to make, where they should go, their relationship to one another in a broad way), but there’s not much more in the way of control I can exert. Well – that’s not true – I could intervene extensively in the landscape and modify the grove far more than I have done. But that’s not what this work is about; what I want is a real dialogue between me and the materials at hand. In that sense, the trees tell me what to do, not the other way around.

I have chosen to respect their material properties and work within those natural limits – rather than imposing a form and outcome by the extensive use of other materials or physical modification with saws or drills or other tools.

I use my hands, linen twine and scissors to cut it, a chair or step ladder, a small bow saw to cut dead branches. That’s basically it. It’s simple, and that simplicity allows for the continual testing of limits in really honest ways. It creates space for an ongoing conversation, a dialogue … and keeps me responsive mentally and physically to the environment, and open to change.

Process rather than product. a good lesson, and one I need to come back to again and again. I’m grateful that the trees are such good teachers.

6 thoughts on “Time Away, and Making Make:Believe

  1. Pingback: Making Believe, Once Again | sydney lancaster: hand & eye

  2. I really love this work – it’s so beautifully lyrical, the limbs and fingers stretching and dancing with each other. Structures of this kind always have a darkness to them too somehow, full of secrets and memory. This space feels very warm and gently enclosing to me, certainly nest-like!

    • I was interested to hear of your connection to Andy Goldsworthy too, as I wrote my dissertation on him years ago, and have been very inspired by his work!

      • OH that’s great! Another small-world moment. What were you focussing on in the dissertation? I really do love a good chunk of his work; it’s the ephemeral works that make the most sense to me and strike the deepest chord … the icicles, the work with leaves on wet rocks, the driftwood structures that are moved and dissolved by water and tide. There’s an intimacy to them that I find quite special.

    • Thanks so much! What a lovely thing to say. Yes, there is a dance in it, and there are moments when the making feels like a dance too – the push and pull of working with the living trees, and seeing what they will let me do. The physicality of it is like dance in some ways too – it’s certainly strenuous in that way! There’s a really profound stillness that has developed in one structure in particular; yes, enclosing – but not at all ‘heavy’ feeling or claustrophobic. There’s a presence to the spaces, a snese of memory or knowing. Watching in some way.

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